Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Updated: December 8, 2:49 PM ET
$100G a year worth the extra security
By Scoop Jackson
Terrance Hale said what needed to be said: "Why don't these dudes just hire security?"
In light of Plaxico Burress' recent drama, the simplest questions can bring about the most complicated answers. See, Hale is a professional protective specialist; he's provided personal security for people ranging from Jenny McCarthy to Prince to Mike Tyson. When this latest incident of a star athlete and a gun broke, Hale and many others in his field threw up their hands.
Why do these incidents continue to happen? Why do these dudes not learn? To experts like Hale, the solution is simple.
In a recent interview with Page 2's David Fleming, Milt Ahlerich, the NFL's vice president of security, said, "The idea of carrying guns, though, is something we strongly, strongly urge against, and the idea of paid bodyguards we think is foolish. The one time it might help you, the 25 times it will hurt you, is what the statistics will say. It's foolish and folly to have guns around you, on yourself or with your folks who are looking after you."
It might surprise you, but Hale -- who is certified to provide executive protection through the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy -- agrees with Ahlerich's statement that fewer bodyguards is the right idea.
What the public (or those of us who are ignorant of the intricacies of the lives of those superstars with whom we find fault) fails to understand is the difference between a "bodyguard" and someone who specializes in protecting million-dollar human beings who like to hit the streets.
For the most part, bodyguards are not trained, not for full-service protection. Certainly not to the degree it seems today's athletes need. Bodygards are in the business of reactive services. So hiring a bodyguard (like the one Adam Jones got into a beef with) doesn't solve a problem, doesn't prevent confrontations from occurring.
A protective specialist, or "security" as they are commonly called, protects a person, like Burress, in legal ways that will keep the person out of jail or from getting into an incident that could lead to him losing his contract. A professional security specialist is trained to protect a person's image. These pros are in the business of prevention, trained to be proactive.
As Russell Hawkins, CEO of Sentinel Protection Services, further explains, "With executive protection, our job is protecting not only [the client] but also their integrity, their public and private side. A bodyguard only knows the general consensus of what's around them. Protective specialists know their clients' lives. If they insulted, say, a drug dealer during the day or their wife wants to file for divorce, [we] know that. Knowledge of a situation is more [important] than a gun."
While bodyguards defuse situations, protective specialists stop situations from even happening. Sounds like a dream come true for NFL public relations departments.
• If Burress had hired personal security (one person) and wanted to go to the club, his security person would have already talked to the club owners and checked out the club before Burress arrived. Burress, even if his security rode with him or met him there, would have known the club was secure for him upon his arrival. There would have been no need for him to have a gun, eliminating the chance of him shooting himself.
• Say, in an extreme-case scenario, that an athlete passes out or is unconscious due to some unforeseen incident that jumps off at the club. If the athlete had a professional protective specialist, the specialist would have a dossier on his client and be able to tell the medics everything about him, down to his blood type or any small bit of information that might save his life.
Why not just put someone on retainer? Think about it -- isn't spending $100,000 a year for personal security worth, say, in Burress' case, not losing or putting at risk $35 million?
There seems to be a need for some professional athletes to "feel safe" in public. So why not put that responsibility on someone who is trained to do such things? As Hale says, "I can carry a gun; they can't." And that right there solves a big part of the repercussions that inevitably follow when an athlete gets into trouble.
It's common sense.
Then again, as my grandmother used to say, "There's no such thing as common sense because, baby, sense ain't common."
(Here's the interesting thing: Athletes always claim they love Jay-Z. Hov is their man. They listen to him, but they aren't hearing him. From "LaLaLa": "I'll never use my gun again/my man'll shoot you." Take heed.)
This is not specific to professional athletes. As much as the Burress incident has been viewed as a portrait of spoiled athletic privilege, the same non-understanding of common sense transcends sports. Cases in point: Why didn't Paris Hilton just hire a driver when she was arrested for a DUI? Why didn't Kiefer Sutherland?
As much as this is about Burress, it really is so much bigger. He isn't the only (as the New York Post put it) "giant idiot" in the room. The room is pretty crowded.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.